Organization of the Spanish Royal Guard in 1808

Table of contents:

Organization of the Spanish Royal Guard in 1808
Organization of the Spanish Royal Guard in 1808

In the previous article, I briefly described the organization and size of the Spanish army: its organization, recruitment system, a brief history of the combat arms and the number during the Iberian War of 1808-1814. However, as some colleagues might have noticed, the review was incomplete - there were no guards units at all. This was due to the fact that even without the guard, the article turned out to be far from small, and I had to compress it a little and throw out some optional information. I wanted to consider the guards units in more detail, paying more attention to their history. This article is entirely devoted to them. As in the last time, the current material is a by-product of one of my projects, and therefore may contain inaccuracies, understatements and assumptions. Moreover, even without me, there are enough misunderstandings in the structure of the Royal Guard of Spain …

Guardia real

The Royal Guard in the form we are accustomed to was created in Spain under the first Bourbon, Philip V, in 1704. However, this does not mean at all that before that there were no guards units in Spain - on the contrary, the new guard absorbed some of the guards units that existed before. Until 1704, all the surviving parts served exclusively as the king's personal guard - be it a palace guard or an armed escort. The number of these units hardly exceeded a thousand people, and most often it was even less. Philip V's reforms added units to them, which were already classic military formations designed to participate in field battles. Prior to that, similar units also existed in Spain - we are talking about the Guardias de Castilla, the selected noble heavy cavalry in the service of the Spanish kings, created in 1493 under the Catholic kings. By 1704, the number of the Castilian Guards reached 1,800-2,000 people in 19 companies (companies), but their organization did not satisfy the tastes and views of the Bourbons, and therefore this part of the guard was disbanded, and the personnel were transferred to new regiments. The Guard was divided into Guardia Real Exterior - external, and Interior - internal. The outer one was engaged in the protection of the palace or castle in which the king was located, and the inner one already provided his direct protection in the palace itself - however, this division was of a more conditional level than the official one. In total, by 1808, the Royal Guard numbered about 6 thousand people, including footmen, horsemen, palace guards and additional services such as the guard band.

Monteros de Espinosa


Spain has not only the oldest marines in the world, but also the oldest royal guard - a unit called Monteros de Espinosa (literally "Hunters from Espinosa", "Huntsmen from Espinosa") traces its history back to 1006 AD! According to legend, the ancestor of Monteros was the squire of the Count of Castile, Sancho Garcia, who received from his overlord a gift of possession near the city of Espinosa as a token of gratitude for his good service and revealing a major betrayal that saved the count's life. In addition to the possessions, the squire also received the right for his descendants to be the personal guard of the counts of Castile. Since then, people from this city or its districts began to recruit in Monteros de Espinosa (later this rule was canceled), and the guard detachment that appeared accompanied the Count of Castile everywhere - both in his castle and on the battlefield. Over time, the count turned into a king, gunpowder began to appear on the battlefield, and the Reconquista was drawing to a close, but Monteros continued to serve, protecting the king. True, since 1504, their functions were somewhat curtailed - with the advent of the Alabarderos, their obligations to guard the royal palace were partially removed from them, and Monteros turned into an armed royal escort, still being part of the internal guard. They continued to exist under the Hapsburgs and under the Bourbons. They also existed in 1808, although their status at that time is not entirely clear - information about them could not be found. It is only known that at least part of Monteros de Espinosa joined the anti-French movement.


Alabarderos first appeared in Spain under King Ferdinand the Catholic in 1504. The organizer of this unit was a certain Gonzalo de Ayora, who also came up with the abstruse and furious name of the guard detachment El Real y Laureado Cuerpo de Reales Guardias Alabarderos - literally "Royal and Laureate Corps of the Royal Halberdiers Guards." Of course, their full name was rarely recalled…. The Alabarderos became the classic palace and ceremonial guards and supplemented the "escort" Monteros de Espinosa, removing some of their duties as an internal guard. The ranks of this unit of the Royal Guard recruited not so much nobles as trustworthy veterans from the guards units and the active army, regardless of their origin. [1] … Their number has always been small, and by 1808 it was about 100 people. During the Iberian War, most of them appear to have joined the anti-French forces, although there were a couple of references to the Alabarderos guarding Joseph Bonaparte along with French units. This part of the royal guard has always been distinguished by special loyalty to the ruling monarch and his family, always acting as a reliable shield against possible conspirators and rebels.

Guardia de corps

Bodyguards (as Guardias de Corps is translated) first appeared in Spain in 1704 as Guardia Exterior, and it was created as a classic horse guard of the Bourbons, modeled on the French. Initially, it consisted of three companies (companies) of 225 people each - Spanish, Flemish and Italian. In 1795, a fourth was added to them - the American; thus, the number of Guards de Corps reached almost a thousand horsemen. In 1797 a horse artillery battery of 6 guns was also assigned to them, but already in 1803 it was disbanded. After the outbreak of the war, this unit hesitated for some time with a performance on the side of the uprising, and then only limitedly participated in hostilities. The reason for this was the difficulties in the dialogue between the command of the guards and the Supreme Junta, which in fact personified power in Spain while King Ferdinand VII was in captivity by Napoleon. From the beginning of 1809, the Guardia de Corps finally got involved in the fighting. So the guards cavalry of Spain went through the war, but it did not have long to exist - in 1841 the unit was disbanded. There were several reasons for this - on the one hand, in Spain, due to economic problems, the army was constantly being reduced, and this process could not but affect the Guards cavalry (with its very expensive maintenance), and on the other hand, during the attempted coup in 1841, the "external" the guard, to which the Bodyguards belonged, allowed the detachments of the rebellious Spanish generals into the royal palace, where they were going to kidnap the young queen Isabella II, and only the active actions of the Alabarderos allowed them to gain the upper hand. The Guards cavalry finally discredited itself, and its end was a little predictable.

Brigada de Carabineros Reales


The Royal Carabinieri Brigade was the result of experimentation with their use throughout the 18th century, and was not originally a Guards unit. The history of this formation began in 1721, when the carabinieri, who were in the general formation of the regiments of the line cavalry, were united into companies that were supposed to fight separately. The results were unsatisfactory, and the carabinieri were returned to their old companies, but some generals decided that the whole problem was the low concentration of carabinieri in battle, and it was simply necessary to increase their number. So it was decided to create the first and the last [2] a completely independent unit - the carabinieri brigade. The decree on its formation was issued in 1730, but in fact the process of creation began only in 1732. From the very beginning, the brigade had a semi-elite status, equating in some privileges to the guards regiments, until, finally, in 1742, the brigade was officially ranked among the Guardia Real. The staff of the formation was constantly changing, and by 1808 it included 4 companies, each of which, in turn, consisted of 3 squadrons. In total, the brigade consisted of 684 soldiers and officers. The brigade went over to the side of the people immediately after the start of the war with the French, and was subsequently actively used during the conflict. Like the Guardia de Corps, the brigade of the Royal Carabinieri briefly survived the war - in 1823 it was disbanded, and the personnel were included in other regiments of the Guards cavalry.

Guardia de Infanteria Española

The first regiment of foot external guards in Spain was created, like many other guards units of the Bourbons, in 1704. Initially, it was an extremely strong formation - the guard consisted of four battalions, and those, in turn, consisted of 6 line companies and 1 grenadier company (company) of about 100 people. Thus, almost three thousand personnel were recruited throughout the regiment. In 1793, the state was expanded even more - up to 6 battalions, and each of them also added a company of guards cassadors ("artillery hunters" - cazadores artilleros) of 105 people; thus, the Spanish Guards infantry already consisted of about 5 thousand soldiers and officers, acting as an extremely powerful formation. However, shortly thereafter, the guard was "purged" - in 1803, 3 battalions were reduced, the casadors and part of the line infantry disappeared from the remaining three. [3] … In this form Guardias de Infanteria Española met 1808. The regiment showed itself well during the conflict, opposing the French at the earliest opportunity, and soon after the end of the war it was renamed the 1st Regiment of the Royal Guard.

Guardia de Infanteria Valona


The Walloon Guard is perhaps the most famous part of the entire guard of Spain in modern times, but even about it we do not know very much. For example, in Russian (and what is there - in Spanish too) there is information that the Walloon Guard consisted of several regiments; however, it is also known from Spanish sources that the Walloon Guard was generally the same as the Spanish one, and that it was divided into battalions, for there was only one regiment! Its numerical strength was also called into question - however, it is not the lack of information that is to blame here, but the frequent changes in the regular organization of troops in the Royal Spanish Army. In order to avoid problems with understanding, in the future, the term "battalion" will be used to refer to the formations of the Walloon Guard, and the Guard itself will mean the Regimento de Guardia de infanteria Valona, i.e. Walloon Foot Guard Regiment (officially Real Regimento de Guardias Valonas - Royal Regiment of the Walloon Guard).

The Walloon Guard was created simultaneously with the other guard of the Bourbons - in 1704, and initially consisted of four named battalions, to which two more were later added (according to other information, three). In general, the organization of the regiment completely repeated the organization of the Spanish Foot Guard Regiment, however, there were serious differences between them, and they concerned manning - only Catholic volunteers from Wallonia and Flanders were taken to the regiment. On the battlefield, these guards showed themselves from the best side, showing courage, ingenuity and high discipline, and even to our time, the society of the descendants of the soldiers and officers of the Walloon Guard has survived. In 1803, this regiment, like the Spanish, was reduced - the battalions Brabante, Flandes and Bruselas stopped their history, and the remaining three recruited just over a thousand people. However, there were quite rational reasons for this - every year the military registration and enlistment office in Liege provided fewer and fewer volunteers, in connection with which the regiment was threatened with a serious shortage. In 1808, the Walloon Guards, together with the Spanish army, marched against the French, and waged active hostilities until the very end of the war. At the same time, due to losses, the number of the regiment was constantly decreasing, in 1812 it was even necessary to leave only two battalions in the ranks and start recruiting from the number of Spanish volunteers, but this was not enough. Soon after the end of the war, in 1815-1818, the regiment began to be staffed mainly by the Spaniards, and it was renamed the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Guard. In 1824, not a single volunteer arrived from Wallonia for the first time, and this date is considered to be the end of the Walloon Guard as such. [4].

Notes (edit)

1) I met the lack of control of the origin of candidates for Alabarderos in several sources, but how much this truth is applied to 1808 is unclear, so this point can be called insufficiently reliable.

2) More precisely, there were other units, but they were quickly transferred to other types of troops - so, created in 1793-1795, the regiment of the carabinieri "Maria Louise" in 1803 was reorganized into a hussar regiment.

3) The available information about the reduction of infantry in the companies is somewhat doubtful - 50 fusiliers were left in line companies, and the number of grenadiers in the entire regiment was limited to 100 people. In this situation, it turns out that the Spanish Foot Guards were reduced to about a thousand soldiers and officers.

4) The date of the end of the existence of the Walloon Guard has its own "misunderstandings": for example, some sources say that it is 1815, others - 1818, and others - 1824. There is also a fourth date - 1820, and even a fifth - 1821. What of them is correct, it is not clear, but it is known for sure that the reorganization of the Royal Guard of Spain began in 1815 and took some time.

Popular by topic